So this little adorable munchkin entered the world eight weeks ago, and it seems about time to check in and talk about the challenges of cooking with a newborn! It turns out that spending hours reading cookbooks, shopping, and chopping are much more difficult with an adorable baby in your midst.
Our daughter Sienna was born on October 21, just in time for the festive holiday season. I love spending time with her on maternity leave, showing her the world and explaining all the things that we do each day. Growing up my mother was always incredibly welcoming in the kitchen and appreciated every opportunity to talk to me about cooking. She used to say "Cooking is a science. If you can follow a recipe, you can cook." Like my mom, I often find myself talking to Sienna about putting dishes in the dishwasher, or grinding coffee beans, or boiling water for pasta. In a half-awake daze, I think I even told her about the purpose of a Kitchenaid mixer as I was prepping a batch of scones. Who knows - maybe all my chatter will get her excited about cooking for herself someday!
The key to cooking with a newborn is timing. Shopping for ingredients has become an adventure. We live around the corner from a Whole Foods Market. Typically I pop her in the carrier right after a feed and bring her to the store, usually only purchasing ingredients for the next one or two meals. It is difficult to handle more groceries with her in tow, and so bigger shopping trips I save for the weekend when my husband can stay home with her for an hour. Once at the store, I keep an eye out for fresh ingredients that are partially prepared - for example, pre-chopped white onion or pre-shredded brussels sprouts. I have been known to enjoy the slow process of preparing each ingredients for a recipe. I even love de-seeding pomegranates (masochistic, I know). However as Sienna often will start to fuss mid-chop, I now buy select items in ready-form so that the cooking process is more efficient.
For new moms, it also is important to stay healthy and nourished if you are breastfeeding, and to stay energized for the long days and nights with less sleep. Keep in mind you are now cooking for three! I have been focused on preparing healthier, cleaner dishes with lots of vegetables and protein to sustain me between Sienna's feeds. These recipes also produce great leftovers. The two recipes featured here - crispy chicken over fennel citrus slaw and turmeric and ginger coconut soup with lentils - yield four servings each.
While cooking with a newborn may seem like an impossible challenge, I will say that spending a few extra minutes making dinner for my family has been very rewarding. It feels like a major accomplishment for the day. Particularly in the early weeks after Sienna's birth, just getting out of sweatpants into jeans to go for a walk was a BIG deal. I now feel a heightened sense of achievement and pleasure in the kitchen, as I know that the food I am making benefits not only myself and my husband, but our daughter. She is getting nutrients from the food I make, and maybe someday will develop a culinary interest of her own.